Dinghy On The Loose!

 

Friday 15th June 2018

I’m sure this has happened to more cruisers than will ever admit it; it’s certainly happened to us in the past.  You wake up in the morning and your dinghy has gone walk about’s (missing)!

First thought “it’s been stolen” second and much more likely, “someone didn’t tie the painter on properly”.  

While we were mored out at Line reef near the waterfall, in the Great Barrier Reef, one of our buddy boats awoke to find their dinghy missing.  

The likelihood of it being stolen out here, hours from the nearest land, is pretty remote, someone (no names mentioned) more than likely didn’t tie it up and it made its escape.

Oyster people are quite a close group, and when one of us is in trouble there’s no shortage of offers of help. Another Oyster ‘SunSuSea’ came to the rescue and offered their spare dinghy.  

In the meantime, while the dinghy-less vessel sailed back to the mainland, we, or rather Don, Stuart, Glenn & Bob set about doing what they could to locate the missing dinghy. 

Of course it could have broken free after dark and possibly been floating on the current freely for maybe 10 – 12 hours, who knows where it could be by now, it was a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack, but the True Blue crew weren’t to be dissuaded.  

Don called the local security on the SSB to give the details, and request a look out for the dinghy from other vessels in the vicinity.  He also tried calling the other vessels that were showing on the AIS. Stuart went 96′ up the mast with the binoculars, to look further afield. 

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Bob and Glenn shot out in our dinghy to the outer reef where they had spotted something white that appeared to be stuck on the reef, it turned out to be a giant clam. After a couple of hours, our search was deemed hopeless, then we heard a message over the vhf announcing that a fishing vessel had picked up a loose dinghy 8 miles away.  The owner of the fishing vessel, also the owner of the “fish & Rum bar” in town, attached the painter from the dinghy, and towed it all the way back to Line reef where we were waiting. The escapee was caught, and we towed it back to Airlie Beach to return it to it’s very grateful owner.  That night all 10 of us dined at the “fish & Rum Bar”,  a great restaurant, lovely food, and a kind and generous owner.

 

The Great Barrier Reef’  Waterfall.

 

Thursday 14th June 2018

The sea was like glass in the bay this morning. In the absence of wind, we were forced to motor the 90 minutes from our beautiful Butterfly bay out to Line Reef, one of the closest of the outer reefs to the Whitsundays. 

We were only a few minutes out when we received a visit from a pod of about 8 small dolphins, that raced along with us at the bow of the boat. As usual we all gathered on the bow with cameras in hand to try and capture these graceful creatures on film. 

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Shortly after the dolphins departure, Glenn spotted a whale spout on the horizon. And over the next hour we saw half a dozen spouts, splashes, breaches and fin slapping as the whales surfaced splashing about on the water. We followed for a while keeping a respectable distance.  I was really hoping to see one come close to the boat, but that didn’t happen. 

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Anyway we arrived in Line (from Hook, Line & Sinker reefs)at lunchtime, and everyone leapt in the dinghy to go to the “waterfall” I thought they were kidding, here we were in the ocean, hours from the nearest land, the water was flat as a plate of glass, and we were going to see a waterfall! I was confused to say the least, but I was going to go and see what the hell they were all talking about.

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So anyway, it turns out there’s a break in the reef and at low tide the water from the lagoon pours back into the sea with tremendous force, causing a huge rush of water resembling a waterfall, it really was quite spectacular, who would have thought! The ocean is just full of surprises…

 

Boobies in the Bedroom!

 

Friday 16th June 2018

Life’s always full of surprises when you live on a boat, and surprise visitors happen frequently, sometimes uninvited visitors! 

As Lesley and I were preparing dinner tonight, twas to be a delicious fare, consisting of Lesley’s sautéed cabbage with cumin seeds & turmeric, my soufflé potatoes, vegetarian & pork sausages to be served in splendor with  our last bottle of wine, at least until we either provision or break into the customs sealed cupboards, (which most likely won’t happen, as the consequences of this action could be somewhat expensive).

Don arrives back at the  boat with Bob, Glenn & Stuart, after a dive near the waterfall, and announces that he’s invited everyone from ‘Miss Tiggy’ (another Oyster) for sundowners. This would normally not be a problem in fact we would usually be delighted, except that we were an almost dry boat, we had plenty of gin, vodka, scotch etc, all the spirits,  but no beer, one bottle of wine and no mixers.  “Hello, welcome aboard True Blue, can we offer you a glass of NEAT gin or vodka?”  I don’t think so…  

Our solution was to send Stuart across in the dinghy with a  plea for mixers & beer “Hey when you come over to join us for a drink, can you bring the booze with you?”

To compensate, and with dinner put on hold, I decided to make a selection of appetizers, we might not have booze but we did have lots of food, maybe that would work! I managed, delicious little cheese pastry puffs, mini quiches, vegetable samosas with chutney, cream cheese with tomato chili jam and crackers, olives, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes, with the obligatory bowl of nuts. Not a bad spread to have thrown together in an hour.

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So, to cut to the chase; we all had a lovely couple of hours chatting and catching up while the sun set. And between the wine the beer and the tonics that our guests provided, a good time was had by all. 

Once our guests had departed, we were all busy clearing up and Lesley and I were about to restart the dinner when Stuart rushed out of his bedroom with a surprised look on his face and announced “Heather, there’s a Boobie in my bedroom!”  My response was “yes I saw him fly in”.  Stuart looked puzzled, obviously thinking I was joking. “No, I’m not kidding, there really is a Boobie in my bedroom” he said looking anxious.

Earlier in the evening, just as it was getting dark I saw a Boobie flying over the foredeck and then just disappear, I thought that the light had been playing tricks on me in the fading light and he had just swooped low and landed on the water, apparently not, he had dropped through the open hatch and taken up residence in Stuarts bedroom. 

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We all went to look and there he was, ‘a Boobie in the shower’.

Poor thing, having gate crashed the party he was wandering up and down the bedroom into the shower cubicle and back, pooping as he went.  He didn’t seem that stressed, although he didn’t look too happy to meet his landlords.  Stuart was a little stressed about the boobie pooping all over his clothes and towels on the floor in his bedroom, it did all smell a tad fishy!

Then the fun began, as our intrepid team of Boobie Snatchers sprung into action, Bob, Don, Glenn & Stuart didn’t waste any time in devising a cunning plan with which would remove the Boobie safely from the bedroom.  Bob was concerned for everyone’s safety in trying to catch the bird without harming it, and a possible injury from the very large beak of a creature thinking it was fighting for its life, not understanding we were trying to help free it.  

The brain storming continued for some time, with everyone coming up with different suggestions from throwing a towel over it, except the  towels  were too small (it was a large bird with an enormous wing span), or a blanket, but Lesley only has expensive cashmere, so that idea didn’t go down well,  then (my  personal favorite) use a sail bag to create the appearance of a dark cave that it would run into (LOL, LOL, LOL). Lesley filmed this particular discussion on her phone, which provided us with endless entertainment the following morning. 

We went up on deck to retrieve a sail bag from the locker, to find yet another bird had taken up residence on True Blue, this time it was a ‘Black, White-capped Noddy Tern’ sitting on the paddle-boards on the foredeck just dozing and pooping quietly, probably waiting for us to launch the boards so it could just bob around the ocean on its own. He stayed put while the sail bag was retrieved from the locker and shaken out; appearing totally unconcerned as he sat just a couple of feet away watching us, he also had the perfect spot for observing through the open hatch  the comedy of errors taking place below.

Once the sail bag was below, the boys drove the Boobie into the shower cubicle and started to construct ‘the cave’ into which, apparently the Boobie would happily run (LOL). Did any of these bright ideas work? No, but it was fun watching our intrepid team get to grips with the solution. In the end in sheer exasperation “if Mohammed won’t come to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed” Stuart threw “the cave” over the bird, grabbed it, and hastily carried the poor creature up on deck where he unceremoniously dropped the Boobie into the ocean, with me following, screaming “don’t drop it in the ocean”, happily the Boobie came to no harm as it immediately flew off into the night, pooping as it went…

 

Birds Behaving Badly!

Following my excitement and rather pathetic endeavors to photograph a Cockatoo about 70 feet at the top of a tree with my powerful Nikon zoom lens; we arrived at Hamilton Island to find dozens of them everywhere. Common as sparrows here in Australia, the Cockatoo’s are literally everywhere and brazen with it.

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They’re a great tourist attraction ‘initially’,  but people quickly get fed up with their bad behavior.  On the marina front there are cafe’s and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy a drink and something to eat while overlooking the marina.  The birds are there in abundance, and not just the Cockatoo’s, but the seagulls and enormous crows, they crowd around the tables hoping for scraps, many of the people (despite notices everywhere not to feed the birds) throw scraps of food, which bring the birds in flocks,  screeching and squawking  from all directions. If you drop a piece of bread the onslaught is like a scene from Hitchcock’s movie  “The Birds”.

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While sitting at one of the tables, I watched a seagull swoop down and literally steal a french fry from the mouth of a diner. The birds all sit in the surrounding bushes on the rails, cars, umbrellas, anywhere where they can be close to the diners.

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I was busy taking photographs and had a paper bag on the table with my half eaten feta and spinach pastry in it, I deliberately left it in the bag while taking photographs thinking it would be safe, “ha” not a chance, I turned around at the sound of paper rustling, to see a cockatoo, brazen as brass, on the table with his head in the bag, as I made a grab for the bag he immediately pulled his head out with my pastry in his beak and took off into a maelstrom of screeching feathers as about 50 other birds attempted to steal his catch.  Not a great place to sit and eat!

I’m usually a culprit of feeding the birds, but in this case it really is not a good idea, and people should absolutely pay attention to the signs and “NOT FEED THE BIRDS”…

The Whitsunday’s The Oyster Group letting Their Hair Down

 

Sunday 10/06/18

The majority of the Oyster boats gathered in the marina at Hamilton Island, in the Whitsunday’s. Settling in alongside they all raised their Oyster banner’s.

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View of Hamilton Island Marina

Sadly the number of boats in the rally has shrunk quite a bit from the start, as people keep dropping out for various reasons. I know a couple of boats that are staying here in Australia instead of carrying on, another plans to stay in Indonesia; and a few stayed behind in New Zealand (although I can’t blame them, why would anyone wish to leave New Zealand?) So as the rally continues, the numbers decrease.

During the first Oyster World Rally we only lost a coupe of boats, I think one was for health reasons and the other, I believe, was because “her indoors” didn’t want to continue on.  We also mostly sailed and stayed together, gathering for tremendous party’s at each new stop, there was a real sense of comoradory among the fleet. 

I wondered upon joining this rally with True Blue, whether this group would have that same sense of togetherness we had on the first rally.  Perhaps because the fleet has been so fractured, there hasn’t been the opportunity for bonding. However, happily things seem to be changing.

Nigel from ‘Venture’ very generously invited everyone on the rally, (owners, crew and guests) for cocktails and a full sit down dinner, to help him celebrate his 70th birthday. This is the first time I’ve seen the group party together, and actually feel as though they’re a group. The evening was brilliant, The Manta Ray Cafe laid on delicious food, and there was  no limit to alchol, everyone had an enjoyble time helping Nigel celebrate. The next get together was for the hobbycat racing, but that was cancelled due to strong winds, this didn’t stop the group from having fun though as they played volleyball on the beach. Then just a few days later we all met at the beautiful  Whitehaven Beach, for a beach barbeque, that too proved to be a lot of fun with a few boats staying on the beach almost until sunset.

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday's Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday’s

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I feel very lucky to be part of the second World Rally, even if it is for only part of it. I wondered whether Bob and I would be accepted into the group, but I need not have worried!  This is a really  nice group of people who seem to have welcomed us with open arms, and I now feel part of a group hell bent on having fun.

 

Meeting the Koala Bear’s

I’ve never really agreed with keeping wild animals in captivity, although, sadly in the future it may be the only way to ensure the survival of many endangered species. I’m appalled and disgusted by “trophy hunters”, they are vile creatures, who have no respect for our planet or its precious wildlife, no one, even governments seem able to stop them, I fear that will only happen when all the endangered species have been wiped off the earth, then these vile people will have to find other easy targets.

Anyone who reads my blog will know  I’m a passionate animal lover, I could no more hurt or kill an animal than I could grow wings and fly.  It’s the reason I became a vegetarian.

I’m beginning to see the value of wildlife sanctuary’s, Parks, zoo’s etc, as long as the animals are well looked after, they will, if nothing else at least ensure the survival of a species.

While staying in Hamilton island in the Great Barrier Reef, we visited a wildlife park, where we were able to cuddle with koala bears,  truly the most adorable little bears you will ever see.

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People pay a fee and then line up to have their photographs taken with them.  While I waited my turn, I wondered about  these little creatures being passed from person to person to have their pictures taken, and I started to feel a little guilty about being there at all. Wasn’t this hypocritical of me supporting this? Obviously I was,  by paying to have my picture taken with one!  I spoke to one of the staff about it, and they said that the photo sessions were only for 30 minutes, 6 days a week, for the rest of the time the bears were left alone to eat and sleep (which is what they do the most of) and they didn’t appear to mind being cuddled, in face the little koala I held, just snuggled into me and seemed very calm and content. The staff explain clearly how to hold the little creatures, and are right there next to you to ensure no harm comes to them, it was well supervised. Also some of the money goes towards Australian animal conservation, so it’s a good cause.

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2017, in a Nutshell!

Saturday 2/05/18

While preparing to write my blog this morning, I scanned back through my posts and discovered that 2017 was missing. How could I do that, miss an entire year? As it was, 2017 was a really  busy year for us, we were doing all sorts of traveling and sailing a lot,  and I injured my hip dancing and could barely walk for 4 months, and ended up in a wheelchair before finally having a hip replacement in November 2017.  Then I managed following surgery to  dislocate my hip twice in December, just a few weeks after, because I’m such a clumsy clogs!

So here is my 2017 year adventures in a nutshell,

January:  On Crazy Daisy in Opua Marina, Bay of Islands, New Zealand, . New Generator fitted.

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Out with the old, and in with the new…

February – April: back in the States with Bob and our children and a vacation in a cabin in the Mountains of North Carolina with all the children and the dogs.  Then three weeks in the UK with my Mum.

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April -May:   New Zealand visit to Hobbiton and wine tour of North & South Island with Paul & Trish, touring north end of South island with Bob.

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May – June: Sail up to Tonga with Paul & Trish,  Danni flew out to Tonga to join us on a visit for five weeks.

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July: Two weeks in Samoa, Wallis & Fiji with Danni, Paul & Trish (hip injury dancing on wedding anniversary) Worst sail ever on the passage from Samoa to Wallis, barely ate for 3 days.

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August: Fiji, with friends, visited lots of beautiful islands and bays in Fiji, I was unable to walk without sever pain. I did however spend a great deal of time on my jewelry, and Musket Cove Resort now sells my latest collection.

September: Fiji, Nic & Sam fly out for a month, Paul & Trish had Lela, Ed & grandchildren out to visit. Swimming with the Manta Rays.

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October: I fly back to Auckland to stay with Don & Lesley on True Blue, and see a surgeon about my hip. Bob sails back with crew. We both got New Zealand Drivers License’s, and we bought a car.

November: Hip replacement, moved into an apartment in Auckland for two weeks for recovery, then into an apartment in Opua for another two weeks.

December: Hip dislocation twice, once on my birthday December 20th… Christmas on True Blue with Lesley and Don.

Wallaby’s on the Beach

 

Tuesday 29/05/18

Our next trip out from Mackay started at 5am, as Bob, Glenn and I headed out to Hillsborough National Park to see the Wallaby’s and kangaroo’s on the beach. It was a 90 minute drive and we arrived just after daybreak. Having grabbed a coffee from the cafe we headed down to the beach to see that a small crowd of people had gathered and the wallaby’s and ‘one’ kangaroo were all around.

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This is a trip really worth doing (especially if you love wild animals and nature as I do), even though it means a really early, before dawn start.  The campsite have a guide who is on the beach to talk about the Wallaby’s and kangaroos who are living in the area.  The guide feeds them a special diet of kibble which is served on plastic flat disc’s so they can eat without digesting the sand, they are all quite tame, but you’re not allowed to pet them, they will come right up to you and sniff. 

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They come down to the beach at dawn every day to feed on the mango pods that wash up there. The campsite quickly realized the potential for tourism and now hundreds of people turn up to see them each morning.  We were lucky on our visit, as there was only a small group of people when we were there. We spent about an hour or more on the beach, I even managed to see a Wallaby Mum and her baby.

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There are organized tours to the site, which vary in price from around $50 – $110 per person, but we simply drove ourselves.  There’s no fee to visit the site as it’s a public beach in a National Park.

Weird & Wonderful Aussie Critters

Monday 28/05/18

We spent 5 days in Mackay, not exactly a tourist trap, although the marina was quite nice.  Tourism here comes a poor second to the sugar and agricultural industries upon which this little place thrives. The main town certainly wasn’t the prettiest place I’ve ever visited, and there’s not much offered in the way of entertainment. However, a couple of things made our stay really worth while.  We (we being, me, Bob, Lesley, Glenn & Stuart) took a drive out to Finch Hatton Gorge in the Eungella National Park. (Eungella means “land of Clouds” I had to add this, it sounds so lovely). We had read that the park was home to the famous ‘Duckbilled Platypus’, so we decided to check it out. 

Duckbilled Platypus Duckbilled Platypus

 

The drive to the park took us past thousands and thousands of hectares of sugar cane, endless, miles and miles of it, we were driving for over an hour past the many plantations. Eventually the sugar ended and we drove on up into the lush, subtropical rainforest, which was fabulous although the typical rainforest weather got us drenched when we got out of the car to take photographs at the lookout. 

It took us about an hour to reach the park, and much to my delight, as we drove higher up into the mountains towards the National park, we spotted the famous ‘Laughing Kookaburra’, as well as a many other beautiful birds.  

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The prehistoric gardens at Finch Hatton Gorge in the rainforest were rich with lush tropical plants, magnificient, ancient gum trees and gorgeous flowers.  We stopped for a cup of coffee and a scone at the little cafe, but I’m sorry to say the scone wasn’t actually a scone, rather it was some sort of sponge, not at all what we expected, and my hot chocolate was watery and tasteless, so even though the location was lovely, the food at the cafe was a little bit of a disappointment. 

The walk along the river was really pretty with turtles, fish butterflies and birds, but no platypus.  Just as we were about to give up after having walked up and down the length of it, we finally spotted one.  It came up to the surface for air, basked for a few seconds and then dove back down, surfacing again a few minutes later in another spot in the river.

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We stayed to photograph and watch for about 30 minutes,  I also saw a fabulous brightly colored ‘Paradise Kingfisher’. 

Was it worth the drive and the search? Absolutely. The Duckbilled Platypus are the most unusual, wierdest creatures, and seeing one in the wild in its natural environment was a real treat.

 

Checking in ‘Mackay’

 

Friday 25/05/18

Customs, immigration and bio security were due to arrive between 8:30 and 9 this morning.  Lesley and I had planned to get up early to sort  out the fresh food  we had left, that would probably be confiscated. Unfortunately we both slept a little later than normal and I was busy sorting the fridge food at 7:45 when the bio security officer ‘Alan’ turned up. 

While  Don sat and went through all the paperwork with officer Alan, I hastily made Gruyere cheese puffs, using up the last of the puff pastry and the Gruyere cheese. After paperwork, came the inspection of the pantry, fridge’s, freezer and all food storage areas. Then the troupe of officers from customs turned up with ‘Hooch’ the adorable detection dog.

 

IMG_3239Hooch was wearing a very sporting set of black uniform booties, to make sure his claws didn’t damage the teak decks. We all has to get off the boat so Hooch could do his job. The officers were all extremely nice and went through the boat with a fine tooth combe, it would have been impossible to hide a toothbrush, they were so through.  

Two hours later we were all checked in, we moved onto the dock and opened a lovely bottle of Minuty…

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let the next adventure begin.